The time prisoners spend on death row has nearly doubled during the past two decades. Legal experts predict it will rise further as states review execution procedures and prisoners pursue lengthy appeals.
Why is it taking longer to carry out executions? Wasn't the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act supposed to speed up the execution process? I cannot be sufficiently sarcastic to such a non-rhetorical question.
While the blame for the increase in time on death row can be spread across a wide array of reasons, perhaps the overall explanation lies in the fact that the U.S. penchant for executions is diminishing. While there has been a spate of recent executions in the former Confederate states such as Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, most states have not conducted an execution or, like Idaho, have only conducted one or two inmates.
A recent poll suggests that public support for the death penalty is remaining steady, but has dropped since the 1990s. More states are considering abolition, just as New Jersey did last year. The path to abolition is not without its obstructions, but it will happen.
Let's face it - the delay in carrying out executions is not fair to inmates and their family and friends, the victims' family and friends, and to citizens whose taxes are supporting a policy that continues to fail to deliver as promised. Just one more reason to follow the majority of the world and abandon this failed policy.